The Examined Year: 2022Jan 01, 2023
What happened over the last twelve months that challenged our assumptions and made us think about things in new ways?
Following up on last year's not-so-new experiment, here's a little behind-the-scenes look into the brief audio montages (produced by yours truly) that we included in this year's episode in lieu of the usual Roving Philosophical Report.
We decided relatively earliy on the news hooks for this year's program: the war in Ukraine, controversy at US Supreme Court, and the incredible images from NASA's James Webb telescope. Starting with what felt like the most persistent one headline-wise, I used the very recent speech by President Zelenskyy of Ukraine In Washington, DC as a way in to depicting the war in sound. Also wanting to keep the most concrete and representational such sounds to a minimum, I decided to counterpose President Zelenskyy with some of what Vladmir Putin said in his address to the Russian people at the time of the invasion in February—not in the spirit of both-sidesism but simply as the other bookend to a year in developed nations at war. As our guest for this segment, Tamsin Shaw from NYU, argued, it's hard to hide our allegiance with one side in this unjustified war of aggression, so I assume my using the Ukranian national anthem to score the words of both leaders makes that partisanship clear.
Next up was perhaps the easiest montage in conception, namely the many headline-making controversies at the US Supreme Court in 2022—the decisions handed down last year constituting only some of the controversy. That said, what was easy enough to conceive of did take a fair bit of combing through those headlines and news reports, including some words from the Justices themselves. I also wanted to be sure to acknowledge the successful nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the court, since it didn't directly figure into the hosts' conversation with Bernie Meyler from the Stanford Law School that made it into the episode.
Fortunately we did end this year's episode on an uplifting note, pondering the beautiful deep-space images from the Webb telescope. But as Ray said on the air (riffing on a familiar phrase about music), talking about space photography is like dancing about architecture: at best beside the point, at worst futile, and certainly a challenge to convey in sound. Luckily the press conference back in July when the first images were released to the public offered some helpful exposition from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, along with some celestial and ground-based wonder from President Joe Biden. It was also fun not only to score this sequence with theme to the recent Cosmos series on PBS but to segue out of the conversation with our guest, Nick Riggle from the University of San Diego, using the theme to the original Carl Sagan-hosted Cosmos.